- The Mavericks welcomed Dirk Nowitzki back tonight in a move that should take the burden off some of the other starters, Sefko writes in a separate story. Harrison Barnes is second in the NBA in minutes played at 38.1 per game, and teammate Wesley Matthews is fourth at 36.9. The Mavs are always concerned about Matthews after the torn Achilles he suffered in 2015. “It’s not the injury history, it’s the length of the season,” Carlisle said. “There’s a cumulative effect of guys being out there too much. But there’s no substitute for a warrior like him who is the best perimeter defender we’ve got and hits big shots. His value to our team is unmistakable. I just got to find a little more rest for him, that’s all.”
- Sefko suggested the Bucks’ Khris Middleton as a potential trade target if the Mavericks are able to make a playoff push. In a question-and-answer session, the writer said Middleton would be the kind of building block Dallas needs, but added that he had no inside information to suggest that such a deal had been discussed.
- The team is hoping Harris will be back in a week to 10 days, tweets Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com. Harris hasn’t played yet this season because of a sprained right big toe and he will wear a carbon plate in his shoe for protection.
Rookie center Dakari Johnson is making a case to stay in the Thunder rotation once Steven Adams returns from injury, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman. The 48th pick in the 2015 draft, Johnson saw his first significant NBA playing time Friday and responded with nine points in 23 minutes in a win over the Clippers.
Johnson earned a spot on the G League All-Rookie team in 2015-16 and the All-League team last year, but hasn’t gotten a shot at the NBA until this season. His early-season play is attracting the attention of coaches and teammates. “I think going forward it’s something huge for us,” said Paul George. “When we don’t have Steven on the floor, to rely on Dakari to step in and just give Steven a break and a breather at times, I think that’s all Coach is looking for.”
There’s more news from the Northwest Division:
- Raymond Felton‘s steadying effect on the Thunder bench has been a bright spot in a disappointing start to the season, notes Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. The veteran point guard signed with Oklahoma City for the veterans’ minimum over the summer and is now on his seventh team since entering the league in 2005. “I think the glue guy to that group has really been Raymond,” OKC coach Billy Donovan said. “I think having veteran leadership back there from him at least allows me to communicate, and then he’s so good at managing the game, that regardless of the personnel that’s out there he can do a really terrific job of getting everybody where they need to be.”
- The Timberwolves aren’t surprised by the success of Suns point guard Mike James, tweets Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News. Minnesota considered signing the 27-year-old before he agreed to a two-way contract with Phoenix in July.
- Free agent addition Paul Millsap jokes that finally “knowing the plays” has led to the improvement in the Nuggets’ offense, relays Gina Mizell of The Denver Post. Millsap, who signed with Denver in July after four years in Atlanta, rates his current comfort level with the team’s approach at seven out of 10. “It’s a relief,” he said. “Your mind’s not all over the place. You’re not guessing or thinking. It’s second nature. You get out there and just play basketball. I dreamed of getting to this place, where I can just get out there and just play. I’m pretty much there.”